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This article was published 11/3/2015 (2088 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

No deal was struck with the firefighters union to secure crucial support, and possibly compromise the interests of paramedics, before Premier Greg Selinger won Sunday's NDP leadership vote, Health Minister Sharon Blady said.

"I think it's interesting that there's this speculation that I somehow influenced or intimidated firefighters," Blady said Tuesday. "I can't influence or intimidate my 22-year-old."

Blady was responding to an allegation she and Selinger's principal secretary, Heather Grant-Jury, hatched a last-minute deal to secure the support of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg to vote for Selinger.

There has been speculation the Selinger camp agreed to scuttle a move by the Paramedics Association of Manitoba to be recognized as a self-regulating profession under the Regulated Health Professionals Act.

The firefighters union has opposed the recognition of paramedics as a regulated health profession. It would mean about 300 paramedics who work for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service would fall under a new professional self-regulating body as promoted by the paramedic association.

'I think it's interesting that there's this speculation that I somehow influenced or intimidated firefighters. I can't influence or intimidate my 22-year-old'‐ Health Minister Sharon Blady

There are 2,500 licensed paramedics in the province.

At a May 23, 2013, public meeting on the paramedics' application, the UFFW and former fire chief, Reid Douglas, opposed the application on the grounds it was unwarranted.

On Tuesday, Blady said she has too much respect for all involved in the recognition process to bargain it away.

"Nothing was asked for; nothing was promised," she said.

UFFW president Alex Forrest, who supported third-place finisher Steve Ashton initially, had committed to support Theresa Oswald on the second ballot, but after meeting Blady and Grant-Jury after the first ballot, changed his mind.

Had firefighters backed Oswald, she could have had about two dozen more votes. Selinger won by 33 votes.

Forrest and Selinger have also said no agreement was made to recruit the firefighters' support.

"He told me what he was doing," Blady said of Forrest. "I had no influence. They're big boys. They make their own decisions."

She said she has read an independent advisory committee's report on the paramedics' application.

That report and its recommendations are to be released publicly.

Blady said she did not discuss the report with Forrest.

"That's not something I can discuss with anyone until I meet with the (committee)," she said.

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky has written to Selinger asking for clarification on the paramedic association's application for self-regulation given what was witnessed by several union members at the leadership contest.

"I am writing to ask you for confirmation that the government will proceed with self-regulation for paramedics and to ask that you provide the timeline for this important initiative," Gawronsky wrote. "I know I speak for paramedics when I say we are looking for a partner in moving EMS care and the paramedic profession to a higher level."

Blady said she has not been in contact with the MGEU.

Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said Blady and Selinger need to explain to Manitobans what deals were made with the UFFW and other unions for their votes.

"I'm asking the premier to come clean and tell Manitobans the truth about how he secured delegate support at the NDP leadership race this past weekend," Pallister said.

"And now the Manitoba Government Employees Union is asking him to do the same thing, and I don't think that that's an unfair request for Manitobans to make."

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca